A Summer at CHOP

Ashley Santaniello, COL ’23, Moscow, ID

This summer, I had the opportunity to work under Dr. Shih-Shan Lang Chen at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the Neurosurgery department’s research division. Dr. Chen is an attending neurosurgeon in the Division of Neurosurgery, Director of Vascular Neurosurgery, and Associate Director with the Trauma Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

As a student pursuing a career in the field of medicine and studying various relevant subjects – ranging from statistics to biology to psychology – I was particularly drawn to Dr. Chen’s research on neurological conditions pertaining to children. Beyond my studies as a psychology major, I spend a significant amount of time at Penn working with children in various settings. I work with Community School Student Partnerships under the Netter Center as a mentor with children at West Philadelphia schools, and through my involvement in Penn’s chapter of Camp Kesem, I have the opportunity to work with children affected by their parents’ struggles with cancer.

As a research assistant under Dr. Chen, I have been aiding in the efforts of two different studies, each pertaining to the betterment of children who suffer from hydrocephaulus and their families. Half of my work consists of follow-up calls with families in order to obtain pertinent data for the study, as well as to get their feedback on the overall workings of the study. The other half of my work consists of consenting and enrolling patients and families in a study during inpatient hospitalization.

When I first began at CHOP, I underwent a great deal of training in order to ensure I was prepared to work independently. I first completed coursework which reviewed the best practices for biomedical research as well as human subjects research protections. I was then taught both how to use the electronic health record system as well as how to input and organize the research data. Beyond the techinal side of things, I was able to shadow both a medical student working under Dr. Chen, as well as other students in order to learn the necessary skills to speak with patients and conduct studies in-person with families.

After some time shadowing, I was able to carry out follow-up calls and in-person meetings with families to conduct research completely independently. I am extremely gratufeul that Dr. Chen allowed me to aid in her research; working under her guidance over the past few months has given me not only a multitude of skills relevant to my career passions, but also exposure to the realms of medicine and research in which I am most interested. Assisting with Dr. Chen’s research projects has also allowed me to pursue impactful research on a demographic with which I hope to work throughout my career. I would not have been able to carry out this work over the summer, had it not been for the help of Penn Career Services, and I want to extend my sincerest gratitude to their entire team!

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services